HEAR AND NOW
A few years ago I was invited to a great golfing event in St. Paul Minnesota. It was part of an annual gala presented by the Starkey Hearing Foundation. They’re a marvelous organization that provides hearing tests and aids for people all over the world. Their annual missions of mercy are major affairs with thousands of hearing impaired people showing up for the opportunity to receive help. Watching a child as he hears his mothers voice for the first time is a powerful emotional experience.
Part of the visit included a hearing test administered in the Starkey lab by founder Bill Austin himself. I went as a lark, certain there was nothing wrong with my hearing. I was surprised when given the news that I had significant loss at certain high and very low registers. I was fitted for hearing aids.
I laughingly accepted them. Thanking the nice folk at Starkey, I took my hearing aids home, tossed them in a desk drawer and didn’t think about them again for a long long time.
Denial. I have a home there.
Some time later my old writing partner, Roger Nichols sent me an embarrassingly boring new demo of one of our songs. I listened to the uninspired minimal recording with a shockingly monotonous singer and wondered what had happened to my old pals chops. This was bad. I composed a short email detailing my disappointment and then searched for a pen to sign some Christmas cards. I opened my desk drawer and saw the box of aids.
And a small light went on. I loaded them up with fresh batteries and put them in before listening to Rogers demo again.
It was brilliant. Strings and guitar I hadn’t heard at all before. A marvelous bass line and a singer that sang directly to my heart. I was stunned. I fired off a quick apology to Mr. Nichols. ”Ignore previous message. Demo terrific! Short deaf writing partner an ass!”
It’s remarkable how somebody who claims to be as evolved as yours truly can be such a moron. Shocking, how I can completely disregard vital information presented by an expert on any subject. Any subject. What is it that causes us to turn away from a truth without taking even a moment to examine it for validity? Let alone accepting it.
Acceptance. Ah, there’s the word. The creation of a solution requires accepting that there is in fact a problem. It’s the headwaters of change.
My hearing loss is not an accident. Nor is it simply age related. Many of us who’ve made music for a living share this common workplace related injury. Years spent in the recording studio listening to extremely loud playback on industrial sized speakers eventually takes a toll. It’s a powerful ego boost listening to a full orchestra pouring out one of your tunes in stereo
Weeks later, finished product in hand I’d race home and listen again and again. My routine may sound laughable to you. Many a night you’d find me laying on the floor at home, Woofers and Tweeters inches away from my ears. It’s insane. Powerful Marantz speakers pointed at my brain with the volume cranked up to eleven. It must have added to the damage. With the right chemicals dancing along in the bloodstream it was pretty interesting though.
So, suitcase sized stereo earmuffs are a bad idea. That’s obvious. But what’s the current lesson here?
I think my problem is a listening problem as much as a hearing problem. An unwillingness to listen to all the signs. For the last few years I’ve had occasional intonation problems on stage. Music is my art. Why wouldn’t I have immediately sought professional help
Avoiding certain truths must be either fear based or egocentric. To overpower the unconscious missteps we need to choreograph new behavior into our daily routine. Listening skills need to slide onto and remain on our radar. Are you listening? Are there signs that you might be unconsciously avoiding unwelcome truths? Perhaps forgotten or missed dr. appointments and check ups. Is there a lump, a sore spot, an ache you need to address? Are you listening now? Good.
There’s a bumper sticker saying that “Recovery is a process, not an event.”
I think it applies to all life. Living is a life long’ awakening. Not a single event but a series of steps and missteps that are chocker block full of information. When we begin to accept that life’s rhythms are always changing we can adjust accordingly, listen more carefully and begin to appreciate the sweet sounds of a perfect now. We can listen to the band and even sing along in this sometimes comic opera of growing up in gratitude and trust.